Posts Tagged ‘reform’

Obama White House Can Release Visitor Logs – Why Can’t DEP?

September 4th, 2009 No comments


Lobbyists sign in at DEP - who were they visiting and what were they discussing?

Lobbyists sign in at DEP – who were they visiting and what were they discussing?

If the White House can release visitors logs, why can’t the NJ Department of Environmental Protection release them?

According to CNN breaking news:

WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Obama plans to announce Friday that the White House will release its future visitor logs on a regular basis, two administration officials said.

The announcement follows a legal settlement with the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which had sued the administration for release of visitor logs, the group announced on its Web site.

Since taking office, the president has been criticized for refusing to release some of the logs, including those relating to health care and coal company executives.

The new policy will apply to visitor logs created after September 15  not to previous visitor logs, according to an administration statement outlining the policy that CREW posted on its Web site. The future logs will be released 90 to 120 days after the meetings, and there are some exceptions.”

Last year, NJ DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson denied a legal petition to bring transparency to DEP by disclosing who senior DEP managers meet with. Ironically, after leaving NJ to become EPA Administrator, Jackson reversed her NJ position and agreed to post her daily calendar and those of senior EPA managers on the EPA website.

In the wake of recent corruption scandals involving access to and political influence on DEP, that petition  was refiled and is again before current DEP Commissioner Mark Mauriello.  How Mauriello handles that request will be a test of the Corzine administration’s alleged commitment to transparency, open government and ethics reform.

Will press hold the Governor accountable on this issue and ask him about Lisa Jackson’s previous denial?

Will good government reformer Independent Chris Daggett engage the issue in the campaign?

Will corruption buster Republican Chris Christie take a stand on transparency at DEP?

We’ll keep you posted.

[Update: The Union of Concerned Scientists has very similar reaction read the UCS press release here]

DEP Takes Polluters “At their Word” – EPA Audit Rips State Programs

August 31st, 2009 2 comments


DEP Headquarters - Trenton, NJ

DEP Headquarters – Trenton, NJ

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) broke the story that a recent EPA audit of NJ DEP environmental programs ripped DEP’s continuing poor performance and lack of effective oversight of polluters. We thank our friends in DEP for outing this bad news, that both EPA and DEP would have swept under the rug – you never  see this stuff in the avalanche of EPA and DEP press releases.

Perhaps the most shockingly unacceptable finding is that DEP takes polluters “at their word“, without conducting field inspections, sampling, or audits to verify their work:

Finding 8: None of the Site Remediation Program’s bureaus interviewed do any project assessment and/or process improvement beyond data validation, (i.e. no field audits, no split samples, no internal assessments, etc). The EPA assessment team was told that Responsible Party contractors and/or NJDEP contractors are “certified professionals and taken at their word.” (link to report here)

Here’s some of the press coverage:

EPA scolds N.J.’s DEP  – (click for complete article)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Gannett State Bureau

An audit by the federal Environmental Protection Agency found the state Department of Environmental Protection still hasn’t made fixes promised since 2006 and detailed extensive shortfalls in New Jersey’s toxic-site cleanup [Note: and wetlands and other] program.

In a sense, the report means the EPA — headed by former DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson — is criticizing the management of the DEP during the years Jackson was in charge. …

Bill Wolfe, a former DEP analyst who is now director of the New Jersey chapter of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said the DEP is failing to meet minimum federal quality and performance standards.

This audit is an indictment of DEP management for failing fundamental tests of competence,” Wolfe said. “Without basic procedures for assuring the accuracy and quality of performance data a public agency cannot even be sure that its shoes are tied.”

EPA Criticizes NJ’s Monitoring of Contaminated Sites (listen to mp3 here)

NEW YORK, NY August 28, 2009 – The US Environmental Protection Agency is citing problems with how New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection monitors thousands of contaminated sites. WNYC’s Bob Hennelly has more.

REPORTER: The EPA Region two audit of New Jersey’s DEP says the state lacks basic quality controls to ensure the accuracy of its testing and monitoring. As a result the EPA found “potentially significant vulnerabilities in how the DEP collected data to back up its own decision making“. Bill Wolfe, is a former career DEP analyst, with the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

WOLFE: The point of the audit is that the state has no basis to tell the public that they have the confidence that the decisions that they are making are really sound scientifically and actually protect the public health.

REPORTER: A DEP spokesperson says the agency is still reviewing the EPA findings. The federal review covers the time that current EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson was in charge of the New Jersey’s DEP. Her office had no comment. For WNYC I’m Bob Hennelly.

Report: ‘Significant shortcomings’ in state environmental agency
Thursday, August 27, 2009
The Record

A federal audit of New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection identified what it called “significant shortcomings” in how the DEP operates, especially in the division that handles contaminated site cleanups.

The DEP’s site remediation program doesn’t provide proper oversight of contaminated site cleanups because program officers don’t follow up with field audits or internal assessments, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency report, released Thursday.

The EPA faulted the DEP officials for failing to verify what the private contractors of polluters told them about site cleanups. The DEP officials even told the EPA during interviews that the contractors were “certified professionals and taken at their word”, the report said. (link

NJ DEP Commissioner Mark Mauriello - on the hot seat

NJ DEP Commissioner Mark Mauriello – on the hot seat


This latest EPA audit follows a scathing 2008 EPA Inspector General’s Report that prompted EPA to take over a number of toxics site cleanups due to years of failure by DEP – see EPA IG Report here.

Will DEP Commissioner Mauriello announce reforms? Will EPA have the balls to strictly oversee DEP and enforce federal laws? Will the Governor or the legislature conduct oversight? Will Chris Daggett, that alleged champion of reform and former DEP Commissioner, speak out? Will the press do additional followup stories to inform the public about the impacts of this failed oversight on public health and the environrment? Will NJ environmental community engage?

More shoes to drop in this story – we will keep you posted.